Netflix’s live-action take on the iconic Japanese anime Cowboy Bebop is up and rolling again. With that comes the announcement that the series has added six actors to the already announced cast. One of the biggest stories coming from this announcement is that Cowboy Bebop has officially made the character of Gren as non-binary and that Gren will be played by Mason Alexander Park, who is part of the National Broadway Tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and who also identifies with they/them pronouns.
“Introducing Cowboy Bebop‘s Gren @MasonAPark Revolutionary as the original anime was, the vocabulary we have today for LGBTQ+ people didn’t quite exist when it aired. For the upcoming live action adaptation, the character is being reimagined as nonbinary with a nonbinary actor,” read the tweet that officially announced Park’s hiring.
The long-delayed Cowboy Bebop series has been on hold for the past year, not simply because of the COVID pandemic (though that didn’t help matters) but because lead actor John Cho, who plays Spike Spiegel, was injured in a freak accident on the set. His injury came on the last take of a well-rehearsed scene and required the actor to fly back to Los Angeles where he’d undergo extensive surgery with a 7-9-month extensive rehabilitation. He has since fully recovered, and production is ready to begin again.
Park appeared in a video attached to the tweet announcement and had this to say about their involvement in the upcoming Cowboy Bebop series. “Now, I will be playing my favorite role from the anime, Gren, who is a sexy, non-binary icon…Being a nonbinary actor who is given the opportunity to breathe new life into an existing nonbinary character has been the thrill of a lifetime. It’s remarkably meaningful to me because I didn’t grow up with a lot of gender-variant representation in the media. There weren’t a lot of other characters that spoke to my experience with gender or my experience with queerness, and representation matters. It’s unbelievably important.” Park continued, “So, I’m really psyched to be a part of the new crop of non-binary and transgender artists who are given such a big platform to tell their stories so that hopefully the next generation of queer kids don’t question the validity of their experience in the same way.”
Along with Park, Netflix announced that Geoff Stults (Little Fires Everywhere, 12 Strong), Tamara Tunie (Black Earth Rising, Dietland), Rachel House (Thor Ragnarok, Soul), Ann Truong (Strikeback!, Hard Target 2), and Hoa Xuande (Ronny Chieng: International Student, Top of the Lake) have also joined the Cowboy Bebop cast. These additions come to a cast that already employs Cho, Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, Elena Satine as Julia, and Alex Hassell as Vicious.
Cowboy Bebop will consist of ten episodes (to start with) and tells the story of a group of bounty hunters traveling on their spaceship the Bebop. Well-known for its genre-blending and bending, the anime series was both a critical and commercial success.
The character of Gren looks like they will receive much more attention than they got in the Cowboy Bebop anime. Grencia Mars Elijah Guo Eckener was initially a soldier for the war on Titan and only appeared in two episodes. After the war, he came back with the desire to become a jazz musician but was arrested as a spy. In prison, experiments were conducted on him which caused a severe imbalance in his hormones resulting in Gren developing a female figure that included breasts.
News of Park taking on the role of Gren in Cowboy Bebop has been met with both excitement and dismay.
Park seems to have it all in perspective as they responded perfectly to a very unhappy tweet.
Okay, Cowboy Bebop fans, let us know your take on this announcement. Does it really make that big of a difference?